Saturday, June 20, 2009

Destiny Beckons: Previewing the Pakistan v.s. Sri Lanka Final

In his biography of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Stanley Wolpert described an incident which occurred a few days after the landmark Lahore Resolution was passed by the Muslim League in March 1940.

An unnamed party clerk came upon the Quaid in the hallways of the Lahore HQ of the League and ceased the occasion to sound out his pessimism and misgivings regarding the Two-Nation theory and establishment of an independent state. It seemed impossible in the face of a strong Congrss and a League which still stood divided between its pro-Congress and pro-British factions. All the odds seemed stacked against the accomplishment of this task.

To this, the Quaid is said to have replied: “This is not a task, an assignment or a mission. This is our destiny. This is something which we were meant to have and, be it now or years from now, it is something which cannot be denied to us. It is our destiny to achieve this – we just have to wait for the right time.”

For many Muslims, the time was then.

For all Pakistani cricket fans, the time is now.

Anybody who tells you that this tournament doesn’t matter is a jackass. Anybody who disregards the importance of these matches due to the nascence of the format is short-sighted. Hell with them. We, the embattled Pakistani cricket fan, know how much this means to us. How much it has already meant to us.

I’m going to give all the pessimistic Pakistan cricket fans the benefit of the doubt by declaring this:

In the back of our minds, we all knew that there was every chance we’d get here.

I don’t know what it is about this campaign, but it’s struck all the right chords. Even when we were being thrashed in the warm-ups, our minds wandered to the “cornered tigers” speech. There was just too much going wrong with Pakistani cricket for us to simply bow out in ignominy.

Pakistani fans are a catious, conservative lot. We’ve had our hopes dashed on far too many occasions to place any concrete faith in our fortunes.

But this time it’s different.

Be it Gul’s law-of-averages defying pin-point yorkers, Afridi’s mercurial genius, Akmal’s raw brilliance, Ajmal’s understated flair, Aamir’s youthful daring, Alam’s unquestionable promise, Younis’s unpredictable canniness or whatever you want to use to describe Malik, Razzaq and Misbah. The stars have aligned for us. We feel it in our deepest recesses and it’s only our inherent culturally ingrained conservatism and cynicism which restrains us from voicing it.

This is a team of destiny. And we’re on the cusp of something incredible.

Sound familiar? In using the concept of destiny, I realize I’m borrowing a catch word/phrase from the Barcelona Football Club’s recent campaign. But when you have two of the best midfielders in the world, two of the best strikers in the world and the greatest footballer in the world at your disposal, isn’t success an inevitability rather than destiny? Barcelona did everything to put themselves in a position where they were destined to achieve some level of success.

Pakistan don’t have the luxury of circumstances. How could anything over the last two years be construed as positive steps towards a manifest destiny? Shoaib Malik captained the team into a mire. Naeem Ashraf alienated some of our best players. We’ve been rocked by constant drug scandals. A visiting team was freaking shot at. We’ve lost our status as a cricketing venue. Think about that. A powerhouse of a sport not being allowed to host any sort of international fixture. We play next to no competitive cricket for long stretches during the international calendar.

How could anyone say that getting to the T20 final is inevitable form the above facts. There’s something more to it than pure luck or chance.

It’s our destiny to be here. We deserve this. If not because of the facts I just mentioned, then because of the multitude of facts I haven’t. How the hell did a team whose followers have lost all hope, whose governing body may even have considered withdrawing it from the stage, whose country is rocked by suicide bombing and political and religious strife – how the hell did such a team get into the final.

Didn’t I just make my point? It’s our destiny.

A friend of mine is a real destiny-buff. I don’t usually buy into the whole predetermined course of events thing, but this friend has a particular approach to the concept of destiny. According to her, once you “account for karma” then one’s destiny is, pardon the circularity of the logic, inevitable. At the time, I thought it was one of the stupidest things I had ever heard. Today, on retrospect, I owe her an apology. I don’t know if I’ve interpreted her correctly, but basically, everything which has happened over the last couple of years has lead us to this moment.

Last time we left England, it was in a mixture of shame and disappointment. A major test match forfeited because a captain refused to let his country’s name be sullied. Not that it mattered anyway because sullied it was through the downfall of two of our best bowlers. We tragically lost a coach, murdered by 11 Irish upstarts. Yet we persisted. We lost Afridi as a batsman, but gained him as a bowler. There was a mass exodus towards the ICL, yet we retained Umer Gul who grew in stature. A reshuffling of the established order took place, a reliance on youth, and we were suddenly, almost unbelievably, in the finals of the first T20 World Cup. Brought there on the shoulders of a middle order batsman who contrived to somehow ensure defeat just when you sensed victory was destined. But it wasn’t our time then. The story after that you know. And now we’re back where we started. Back where things started going wrong for Pakistan cricket in the first place.

THAT, is fucking karma! We’re meant to come here. It’s just so damn perfect! We were meant to come here to finally put the ghosts of Darrel Hair and the Oval forfeit to rest. Hell, we even managed to vanquish the Irish on the way here. The only thing left is for Younis to promote Misbah over that fuck-up Malik and let destiny redeem him for his error last time around. It’s all falling into place. There is something about this team which will not be denied. It’s our destiny to be champions. Too much has gone wrong in the last couple of years for it to be taken away from us now.

One more thing Ms. Destiny said to me: “fate only helps those who help themselves”. Hardly an original thought, but poignant nonetheless. I know I’ve said a lot of abstract stuff about destiny, but we can’t go into the final expecting to win because we boast a phenomenal head-to-head record against the Lankans. We need to work towards achieving that destiny. This will NOT be a cakewalk by any means. If Gul is the Prince of death-bowlers, then Malinga is his younger step brother in waiting for the throne. Murali and Mendis are more than a match for Indian batsman which makes one shudder to think how anyone other than Younis will handle them. Their batting powerhouses are formidable and in Dilshan they have the best batsman of the tournament by far who will most probably kill Razzaq. The amount of runs Razzaq leaks to Dilshan and Jayasuria is key to our success because I KNOW our spinners and Gul will not disappoint. If we bowl, we need to get Jayawardene, Dilshan and Jayasuria. If we bat, we need to maximize the number of runs we get in the first couple of overs before Malinga and the spinners take over but still keep ticking along at around 7-8 an over during the middle period of the innings. Misbah needs to be sent higher up the order to account for his sins of the past. Younis has to reverse sweep the crap out of the M’s. And Afridi has to be Afridi.

It’s that simple.

Our destiny is staring us in the face. We just need to help ourselves get to it. It’s calling out to us. It wants us to claim it. This is our time.

Come what may in the final, this IS the new dawn for our team.

I fucking love Pakistan cricket.

p.s. If Sri Lanka do beat us, it doesn’t change the fact that as a nation, we are by FAR better looking than them.

p.p.s. The first paragraph on Wolpert and the Jinnah story was all a lie. I made it up to lend some gravitas to the piece. Hell, it COULD have happened.

1 comment:

  1. I always use the atleast-we're-better-looking line, but inshaAllah we wont need to use it this time :)